Once again, Steven Universe tackles a subject not often aimed at children, depression. For the most part, this is one harmless episode, it's cute, while also providing a nice understanding of depression, despite it being a basic one. Depression isn't easily overcome by a joke, but it can be overcome by close friends and support, again it's over-simplified, but that a kids show is discussing it is a positive, we need to teach our kids it's okay to be sad, while also teaching the value of support through sadness. I'd much rather watch BoJack Horseman for my depression fill, but I am glad to see a show aimed at children discuss it without boiling down to a "you shouldn't be sad" or "depression is easy to end" message.
We open with Steven hanging around the arcade, Mr.Smiley is putting up a new machine, a fortune telling bot from the future, Zoltron. Steven tries learning about his future from Zoltron, but ends up accidentally breaking the fortune teller, resulting in Steven taking its spot until he raises enough money to repair Zoltron. At first things go fine, Steven tells humorous fortunes, or just positive advice to residents of Beach City (my favorite being his encounter with Onion). Where things get messy is with the encounter of a depressed man, no matter what Steven suggests the man remains saddened, Steven wishes to help, but there's nothing he can do, until he realizes the man is looking for Mr.Smiley. Mr.Smiley reveals the man to be a part of his comedy routine from the past, Mr.Frowney, who he always felt bad for as he never knew how to cheer him up. The episode closes after a nice reunion between friends, where Frowney is finally made happy, though Steven still can't leave his job as Zoltron until his steep debt is paid off.
I should love this episode a lot more, as someone who suffers from depression, this really does hit close to home, yet I only thought it was fine. Maybe it's the basic approach, or that this was tackled with a new character, making the sadness come from more generic places, but it only works, not greatly, it just works enough to be a good episode. I wasn't amazed by it, but it is charming to see kids shows acknowledge the existence of depression, especially in a world that still considers depression to be the same as "feeling a little sad sometimes". I wish I loved this one more, as it seems like it was made in earnest, but as is, it's just a good episode.
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Written by Octaviano Macias